TL:DR: the Waitemata Local Board has won significant improvements to the quality and safety of the Quay Street/Tamaki Drive cycleway at the Ports, to tie into Bike AKL’s win from 2017.
As an advocacy group working ‘inside the tent’ with Auckland Transport on improvements for safer cycling, we often hear great news about bike projects before they’re ready to go public. So, when we were recently shown plans for a ‘missing piece’ of the Quay Street / Tamaki Drive bikeway, our first instinct was to tell you all the good news … but we kept our silence while the project was still under wraps.
Happily, now that the Local Board has made the newest plans public, we can finally talk about it.
Local Board advocacy & insistence on best practice pays off! We've been pushing @AklTransport to remove a section of shared path & 2 slip lanes from Tamaki Drive cycleway design. 3x rejected AT's proposals. Now confirmed AT's preferred option "high quality & safe" #visionzero pic.twitter.com/BIOiqaMZOw
— Pippa Coom (@pippacoom) May 30, 2018
Yes! The great news is that we should soon have a protected, two-way bikeway along Quay Street and Tamaki Drive, ALL the way from the Viaduct to Orakei. That means 4km of consistent, uninterrupted high-quality bikeway along our historic waterfront and most prominent seaside promenade!
(And of course, this will link to other paths that already exist – and that will be added in the future, like Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive – thus tying this continuous section into a real and expanding network).
Pippa Coom’s tweet showing the proposed future cross-sections also allows us to talk about the updated design for Tamaki Drive where it crosses Hobson Bay. This is the project where, with your support, we achieved a massive win back in 2017.
In fact, this is a great moment to do a catch-up on the various sections of Quay Street and Tamaki Drive, and where they are all at.
Quay Street (Stage I, completed section)
This section of the Quay Street Cycleway, from Princes Wharf to Mahuhu Crescent, was one of the early achievements of the Urban Cycleway Programme. Constructed with planter boxes and concrete buffers, officially it’s an ‘interim solution’ for the duration of the CRL works / until we get the Quay Street Promenade. We wish all interim works were as high quality and useful!
We have nothing new to tell you about the future form and layout of this one… yet (hint, hint).
We can tell you that the promised safety improvements at the entrance to Queens Wharf – in the form of in-ground flashers at the Ferry Terminal vehicle crossing – have been installed but sadly not yet activated. Apparently there have been some issues with the regulatory approval. We’ll keep chasing.
We’d also love the sad-looking planter boxes to get some maintenance and, you know, some plants again, after a hard season or two killed them off!
But overall, this section has been a massive – and very visible – success story for biking in Auckland, bringing the busiest bike route of the city right into the bottom of town.
Quay Street (Stage II, under construction)
This add-on section – almost completed – extends the first stage of the Quay Street Bikeway almost up to The Strand intersection in the east.
To make space (and to preserve crucial bus parking for the many City Centre services), a number of trees had to be relocated from the central median which was getting narrower. This brought some protesters onto the plan, which stopped the project for a few weeks early in February. We wrote about it here, and about how foolish it was to frame this as some kind of ‘cyclists versus trees’ battle.
Thankfully, the works proceeded again pretty soon after that interruption. Based on the discussions over the last year about ‘quality’ versus ‘interim’, AT decided to change the path: instead of adding concrete separators to the road surface (as in Stage I), it’s now a raised path with two grass strips adjacent – separating it from both the footpath and the road, as you can see in the photo below.
The Strand / Solent St Section
This has long been a tricky section – tricky as in EITHER scary dangerous OR inconvenient af. Between the two big signalised intersections of The Strand and Solent Street, this is actually a part of State Highway 16, which is the main route for trucks into and out of the ports.
If you weren’t keen to mix it with big trucks on-road (with only a short westbound cycle lane to assist you), your alternatives were limited to shared paths. The one on the north side of the road can be busy with bikes and pedestrians – and then forces you to cross a signal and two slip lanes at the Ports of Auckland entry. Not a nice part of bike town!
Earlier designs for Quay Street and Tamaki Drive left this section pretty untouched. Some proposals were floated to reseal it and improve things where the bike path crossed the Ports entry, but it seemed that we would be stuck with a shared path here for a while longer.
While Bike Auckland had just won the fight for a quality solution east of here on the main causeway (see next section), and had had some input into the plans for ‘The Gap’, we were preoccupied with a thousand and one other projects and areas of the city asking for our input and help.
So thank goodness for the cavalry – in the form of the Waitemata Local Board, who took up the charge of making sure AT upgraded this section.
And that brings us back to the original tweet from Pippa Coom above. Let’s delve into the details of the screenshot she shared:
Dissecting these cross-sections, we can see a couple of nice things:
- No more shared path! The first section includes extending the Quay Street Stage II extension up to The Strand (the current Stage II works will stop some 200m west of The Strand). But in the future, we get a new separated cycleway all the way, including between The Strand and Solent Street! A great win for both pedestrians and people on bikes.
- The grass-berm separator at the traffic edge (as shown in the photo above) will be extended more consistently through the design. That’s great – who wants to travel immediately adjacent to trucks! Another upgrade to the existing path, which put everyone just a kerb’s distance from eighteen-wheelers.
- Some people have raised concerns regarding pedestrians strolling onto on the bike path, similar to what happens on Beach Road. We feel this is much less likely to be an issue here. On Beach Road, walking the bike path actually is a slight short cut, and once you are on it, it’s difficult to get back onto the footpath, due to the deep planting beds. Here, by contrast, the bike path is a long linear section where pedestrians don’t really have anything to gain from being on the bikeway. As long as the markings are done well (plus ideally, a slight vertical separation between footpath and bikeway as per Copenhagen designs), we see no risk.
Then of course there is a new solution at Solent Street, the entry to the Ports, which is currently a three-step crossing for people walking and biking. Here’s the proposed upgrade:
As shown in the image, the proposed design has the bikeway continuing across as a single signalised stage. No more crossing over TWO slip lanes and then still having to wait ages at a traffic light.
This will be a big safety improvement as long as the phasing is appropriate. Currently, when you look at how the signals operate here, you will see anywhere from 50 to 90% (!) of all people on bikes AND on foot crossing here on a red man, depending on time of day. Of course, that is clearly illegal. But ask yourself: if almost literally everyone – from people on sports bikes to elderly couples out on a Sunday walk – is ignoring your traffic signals, maybe there’s a deeper problem.
We hope that the new signals won’t make people wait minutes to cross, especially when there’s no traffic coming to and from the Ports. (This lack of any perceived need to stop is, we suspect, a key reason why so many ignore the signals here now).
Overall, ‘The Gap’ between The Strand and Solent Street is massively improved in this newest design – which should hopefully be constructed as part of the main Tamaki Drive works (see next section).
However, technically we should note that this is AT’s ‘preferred option’ for now; we understand AT still needs to coordinate this with Ports of Auckland and the trucking lobby. But we have been told that, as long as the Strand and Solent Street traffic signals work in a coordinated fashion, there should be no real downsides for them – and they will hopefully get on board. We hope that’s so – because this is as much about people staying safe as about improving bikeways.
Tamaki Drive (main section)
Back in early 2017, Bike Auckland did something that was, until then, unheard of for us. We opposed an Urban Cycleway Programme project. And not just any project: the crucial causeway section of Tamaki Drive, which was pegged for upgrading in part because of the many new riders the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive path will bring.
As we explained at the time, we had significant quality and safety concerns with the original design, which proposed shared paths (not best practice), and required extra and very unintuitive traffic light crossings – as well as posing safety issues for those who’d prefer to stay on-road.
So we encouraged all of you to submit in favour of the Bike Auckland Quality Option instead. We were overjoyed that many hundreds of you agreed and overwhelmingly supported our proposal. And we were very pleased when AT showed professionalism over ‘staying the course’ and adapted their design in a way closely resembling our proposal.
Now that the design is in the final design stages, Pippa’s tweet allows us to show you how things compare:
The key change we can see in the most recent design is that the bike path is now raised to the footpath level. It still has a separation strip, which in fact will be wider than what we had hoped for. The extra width will also protect against car door opening risks. It will however not be a grass strip as further west – it is being described to us as sort of combined concrete buffer and (covered) stormwater drain pipe.
And as you can see, the basic elements of the massive quality upgrade remain the same – i.e. the two-way protected bikeway on the northern side, adjacent to the trees. And we do need a proper protected bikeway, because according to the image, Tamaki Drive will be four lanes of trucks!
Just kidding – clearly AT looked at the worst case scenario, in part to test the clearance of big trucks and to prevent the design from requiring constant tree trimming to protect the trucks… or rather, having the trees constantly ‘trimmed’ by trucks, as seen here:
For anyone *genuinely* interested in the relationship between bike lanes and street trees, here are views of Quay St in AKL: 1. No bike line outside trees. 2. Bike lane being added outside trees: pic.twitter.com/ttF1kWnUfw
— Patrick Reynolds (@pv_reynolds) May 7, 2018
Ngapipi Bridge clip-ons
As early as 2015, we started talking to AT about the Ngapipi Bridge on Tamaki Drive. When the Tamaki Drive / Ngapipi Road signalisation works (coming closer to completion now) were finally shaping up to a proper design, we turned our view to the bottleneck of the bridge, and the challenges to safety and capacity. At that stage, any proposed designs pushed people on bikes into the old conundrum: busy shared path, or fast road traffic?
The good news is that about a year ago – with our strong encouragement – AT came to the conclusion that the bridge could support clip-on sections to create proper bikeways. They even managed to find the funding for it in the recent RLTP! So the good news is that around mid-2019, we should see construction start on adding protected bikeways on both sides of the bridge:
We are keen to see all these projects proceed – once the transport budget is signed off – and we understand AT is keen to get stuck into Tamaki Drive proper in 2019. It’s been a bit of a journey over the last few years, but well worth it in terms of raising the quality significantly! This will be a legacy we will all be able to look back on with pride.